Audrey Hepburn: Film and Fashion Icon, Humanitarian, and Home Cook
“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” —Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is one of the most admired actresses of all time. Since Hollywood’s Golden Age, Audrey has captivated audiences with her charm, poise, and talent. Born in Brussels, Belgium, Audrey studied ballet and musical theatre production in her youth and traveled and lived in various European countries. Performance, music, and ballet were ways in which Audrey could express herself and find comfort in tumultuous times, particularly during the war.
Audrey credits her breakthrough moment as an actor to the French writer Sidonie- Gabrielle Colette, who cast Audrey in her stage play Gigi after seeing her on a beach in the South of France. Shortly after her debut in Gigi, she was cast as the lead in Roman Holiday (1954). Audrey went on to star in many beloved classic films such as Sabrina (1954), The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait Until Dark (1967), for which she received Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations. In recognition of her incredible film career, Audrey was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from BAFTA, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and the Special Tony Award. She remains one of the 12 people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Awards. For her humanitarian efforts, she was posthumously awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which was accepted by her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer.
As the years passed, Audrey appeared in fewer films and devoted much of her later life to UNICEF. She had contributed to the organization since 1954, then worked in some of the poorest communities in Africa, South America and Asia between 1988 and 1992. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in December 1992. A month later, Audrey died of appendiceal cancer at her home in Switzerland at the age of 63.
When asked about the inspiration behind her work with UNICEF, an organization to which she dedicated many years of her life, Audrey recalled her experience during the war and the hardships she watched her family and friends endure. The food was scarce, and at times the only things available to eat were tulip bulbs, dog biscuits and green bread made from a sort of pea flour. When liberation finally came, an organization that would later become UNICEF arrived with clothing, medicine, and food for Audrey’s family and the surrounding community. This experience helped to motivate her charitable work in later years.
In the 1950s, Audrey narrated two radio programs for UNICEF, re- telling children’s stories of war. In 1989, Hepburn was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. On her appointment, she stated that she was grateful for receiving international aid after enduring the German occupation as a child, and wanted to show her gratitude to the organization.
Though Audrey was known for her slender figure, she very much enjoyed eating and cooking. In his book Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit Audrey’s son Sean writes that she stayed thin by keeping active and eating single servings during meals, never helping herself to seconds. Over the years she began eating meat in limited portions. She also believed that your meal should always include a colorful combination of food, saying: “It isn’t very interesting to eat a plate full of white, therefore it can’t be very good for you either.” This style of eating typically included something from each food group and became her approach to a healthy diet. Audrey also avoided snacking and rarely indulged in sweets, apart from a single piece of chocolate after her afternoon nap. Chocolate, she claimed, chased away the blues. Sean says that his mother ate pasta once a day and that she had an affinity for Italian food, likely due to her time living in Rome.
In honor of Audrey, here’s a recipe of her favorite Italian dish– spaghetti al pomodoro– which she ate at least once a week. Audrey believes the best Italian dishes are made from quality ingredients, so be sure to use fresh, quality ingredients (Think: What Would Audrey Do?). Much like Audrey herself, this dish is a classic stunner. For dessert, try vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup, another one of Audrey’s favorites.
Audrey Hepburn’s Spaghetti al Pomodoro
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
2 large cans (28 oz. each) peeled Italian Roma tomatoes 1 large bunch fresh basil, washed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 lb. spaghetti pasta
Salt to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a large pot combine onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Take half of your basil and remove whole leaves from the stems (you should end up with about 1⁄2 cup of leaves). Add the basil leaves to the pot. Bring sauce to a simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking apart the larger tomatoes as they cook.
While the sauce is simmering, fill another large pot with 4 quarts of water and slowly heat it up. Take the remaining basil and cut the leaves into small pieces using a pair of scissors—this will help prevent bruising and blackening of the leaves. Reserve.
After 45 minutes, or when the diced vegetables are tender, turn off the heat. Let the sauce rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt, if desired. Cook your spaghetti pasta until al dente (retaining a little bit of snap to the core). Drain and rinse the pasta with lukewarm water to prevent sticking.
Taste the sauce, add salt to taste if desired. Serve pasta topped generously with sauce, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the remaining freshly cut basil leaves. Tips/Techniques
You will also need: Two 6-8 quart pots.